This week’s Friday exhibition is a book: “Hassel Smith: Paintings 1937-1997.” It was edited by Petra Giloy-Hirtz and includes contributions from Allan Temko, Peter Selz, Susan Landauer, Paul J. Karlstrom and Robert C. Morgan. It was published by Prestel. Giloy-Hirtz discusses the book on this week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast.
Smith was among the painters who emerged in post-World War II San Francisco, a group that included Clyfford Still, Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff, Joan Brown, Jay DeFeo, David Park and Frank Lobdell. (And unlike them, Smith was an early explorer of assemblage, producing eye-catching mixed-media works as early as 1943.)
Despite producing a substantial and significant body of work, Smith has never quite received the attention the other Bay Area-based artists have. (It probably didn’t help that Smith was a prodigious drinker or that he gave up California for England in the 1960s.) That’s too bad: His abstractions of the late 1950s and 1960s are smartly composed and his palette was rich and varied, his hard-edge, paint-by-numbers-referencing abstractions are seductively catchy and his 1980s abstractions are lush and mature. Smith’s is a significant oeuvre that’s only now beginning to receive the attention it merits.